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If you haven’t heard, James Wade is back people! After taking Planet Darts by storm in the late noughties and early into the 10s, wins became hard to come by for ‘The Machine’ in the latter part of the last decade. But, Wade claimed brilliant UK Open title win back in March (an 11th Major title in his career) to lift him back into the top four in the PDC rankings for the first time in nine years.
At this tournament, Wade may have surprisingly lost his opening game to Jim Williams, but has roared back to top Group C with impressive showings against Boris Krčmar and Rob Cross. He emerged from last game with Cross with a 111.71 average and looks to be in top form heading into this meeting with Rowby-John Rodriguez.
Rodriguez came second in his group, missing out on top sport to Ryan Joyce by a single leg and he beat Chris Dobey and Stephen Bunting to qualify. However, as good as those players are, Wade looks to be a different beast and we fancy him to take victory here. Rodriguez does have the slightly higher 180’s per leg tournament average (0.35 to Wade’s 0.20), so we’ll take the Austrian to just pip the maximum count.
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There is just no stopping Jonny Clayton at the moment and it seems like once the Welshman found the winning formula, he just couldn’t get enough of it. ‘The Ferret’ claimed his first individual televised Darts title at The Masters in January and has followed that up in huge fashion – adding to it with victories at the Premier League and World Grand Prix. Clayton is now a fixture at the business end of most tournaments he enters and flew through Group B here, scoring three wins from three in the process.
He squares off with one of the tournament’s surprise packages in Round 2, as Northern Ireland’s Nathan Rafferty came out of a group containing Gerwyn Price, Krzysztof Ratajski and Martin Schindler to make the knockout phases. Rafferty came agonisingly close to shocking world number one Price in his opening contest, but has averaged under 90 points since. That simply won’t be good enough to beat a player of Clayton’s calibre and we believe the man from Wales can get the job done swiftly, so that’s our reason for tipping the Unders in this one.
It really has been nice to see Rob Cross return to form after a tough 18 months for the former World champion. ‘Voltage’ would have dropped out of the world’s top 20 if he didn’t at least make the semi-final of the recent European Open.
But, he responded to the pressure brilliantly to get to the final and then beat Michael van Gerwen 11-8 to score his fourth major darts title – one that certainly has an argument of being his most important one to date. Cross finished runner-up in his group after seeing off Boris Krčmar and Jim Williams in his first two games, before running into an inspired James Wade in his final Group C match-up.
Waiting for Cross in the Second Round is Group D winner Ryan Joyce. The Newcastle native has a perfect record in Wolverhampton so far and is brimming with confidence after wins over Chris Dobey, Stephen Bunting and Rowby-John Rodriguez. The head-to-head between these two is 3-2 in the favour of Cross, and we’re expecting another tight affair here. It’s too hard to call a winner in this, so back the Overs and settle in for a long one!
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